For the last few decades Father’s day has been an exercise in emotion control.
“Don’t break down,” I’d chant under my breath during the celebratory Sunday morning service,
“think about the things you hate.. liver and onions, boring card games, reruns of Friends and little House on the Prairie. Channel that anger. Just DON’T break down.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t have good memories of my dad. I just didn’t want to turn into some slobbery snotty mess of humanity in public because I missed him so much.
I have my pride and I know my limits.
And, I know grief, damn her sneaky little hide. She is totally unpredictable, demanding and utterly unrestrained when it comes to dishing out the tears.
One comment, a line of a song, one holiday celebration becomes a time machine whisking me right back to the very moment of my lost.
Grief hits me the deepest if I happen to have to visit the Emergency section of the hospital. That’s where I saw my dad one last time. He’d been brought in by the paramedics. They worked to revive Dad for almost an hour. Then, they called time of death. I burst in a few minutes later.
Mind you this was decades ago, before extreme security measures.
My mom was already in the room with a few close family friends. Beside them, my dad’s body lay swollen and almost unrecognizable. Who would have believed that he had just finished a full days work a few hours before? It was a heart attack that took him away.
I didn’t want to believe it. I wasn’t ready to lose him.
Seriously? Who is ever “ready”? It’s more like resigned to the reality or at peace with what must be. But no one “gets ready” really. Maybe because no one who leaves this earth leaves it without a tearing a bit of a hole in the fabric of the lives of the ones they love.
I know. I felt like I was being ripped in half.
It took years for me to mend, something that happens more by the passage of time than by anything else.
Healing takes time.
Still, after all these years, Father’s Day can re-open the wound.
Is that so bad?
Actually, no. After a time there is something almost bitter sweet about grief. I had a dad who was not perfect. Didn’t make a big splash in this world in comparison to other dads. But, he loved my mom and he loved us kids. Played silly games, got angry and lost his temper, asked for forgiveness, worked shift work and pastored several small churches. He visited the sick in the hospital, helped reconcile marriages and rescued women and children from abusive situations.
I miss him.
In the end, I would not give up the missing if it meant that I had to give up the memories too. Those memories are not just a warm thought in the middle of the night. The memories are a part of who I am today.